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the former, so as few of the former are to be found among the latter.
But who can maintain this, and hope to receive credit, either for his fairness or his sagacity? We state it as a fact, equally important and irrefragable in the present discussion, that those who are most anxious about their own religious interests, and the religious interests of others, are, at the same time, most concerned, most active, most liberal in providing for the temporal wants of their fellow-men. We are not entitled to say, that this holds universally; but every day's observation justifies us in maintaining that it is true as a general statement, and that the exceptions to it are neither numerous nor considerable.
If, indeed, the allegation of our opponents were founded on truth, we should suppose before-hand, that the individuals to whom this world is every thing would, if compassionate at all, be greatly and prominently compassionate in contributing to the relief of temporal affliction; and we should also suppose, that those who are earnestly occupied with the concerns of spiritual and eternal salvation, would have their attention engrossed, and their sympathies exhausted by them, to the exclusion of every call that might come to them from the victims of worldly misfortune. Nothing, however, can be farther from the reality of the case. We see these several classes of men feeling and acting in a manner the very
The men of the world, from the very nature of their system, from the selfishness of the suits on which they are altogether bent, from the demands made upon their resources by the pleasures and amusements to which they are addicted, and the
deadening effect which these, when carried to excess, have upon the generous feelings, will not listen to the tale of woe, and are “pot grieved for any man's affliction :" whereas the true Christian, in the very spirit of his faith, and in the exercise of his
proper vocation, is ever ready with his consoling language, and his pecuniary aid, and his personal services, to comfort and to succour the helpless beings whom God has cast upon his bounty. Notwithstanding all that has been said of the dignity and the tenderness of human nature, we are borne out by history, and by observation, and by our Bible, in saying, that man is naturally selfish. The simple elements of that character are implanted in his constitution to answer wise purposes; but they are injured and perverted by the moral depravity which has infected him, by the temptations to which he is outwardly exposed, and by the indulgences in which, from ignorance or from waywardness, he has been accustomed to seek his happiness. And this selfishness, even in its least aggravated form, but especially when increased, as it frequently is, by habits of dissipation or of avarice, is too firmly rooted in him to be extirpated by any of those ordinary forces to which speculative and political moralists have trusted, in attempting to accomplish his reformation. It will not give way to better affections, except by the application of some mighty, and ennobling, and generous influence to his heart. And such influence, as experience teaches, belongs to the gospel, and to the gospel alone.
Whenever that is made to bear upon the sinner, and carried home to him by the energy of divine
a new creature.” He
puts away from him all the passions which centered in his own gratification. He bas felt the love of God to his own soul; and hence he learns, and is persuaded to love his neighbour as himself. The precepts, and the spirit, and the examples, and the whole character of revelation, enforce upon him the charitable lesson. From looking entirely and exclusively on “his own things,” he comes to “ look also on the things of others.” From being indifferent to the concerns of his brethren, he comes to take a lively interest in all that relates to them. From regarding them with hatred or malice, he comes to cherish towards them the kindliest affections. And from sacrificing their welfare at the shrine of personal aggrandizement, treating them as aliens and enemies, perhaps persecuting them with relentless violence, he comes to do them good with a “ willing mind,” and to forget the claims of self in his endeavours to advance the happiness and well-being of his fellow-men. the zeal and the fervour, as well as the fidelity and perseverance with which he labours in the cause of humanity, he shows that he is actuated, not so much by a dry sense of duty, as by the general tone and tendency of that doctrine in which it has been given him to believe as the doctrine of heavenly truth; which speaks of man as lost by sin, and recovered by grace; which has brought him individually into a state of spiritual light, and life, and hope; and which teaches him to look on the lowest and the poorest of his kind as creatures like himself, whom God has pitied, and whom Christ has died to save.
But the opponents of spiritual charity try to strengthen their case, by accusing us of going to
distant objects of a religious kind, and overlooking those objects of a temporal kind, which are immediately under our eye. Now, supposing this to be done, we say freely and decidedly, that such conduct is wrong, and must proceed from great weakness, or from a strange perversion of the benevolent affections. But is it the fact, that Christians, who are compassionate to the souls of the heathen abroad, are not compassionate to the bodies of their brethren at home? If it be the fact, does it prevail to any hurtful or considerable extent ? Or does it exist in such a degree as to be worthy of formal notice or of public censure, and to constitute sufficient ground for the general and sweeping conclusion that some would have us to draw from it? We can safely appeal to every candid observer of what is passing around us, when we say that it does not—that it is a mere fiction of the fancy-a mere bugbear, conjured up to excite prejudices in the minds of the timid against exertions and associations for religious purposes--a mere gratuitous assumption, which is not only incapable of being substantiated, but whose utter groundlessness may be demonstrated beyond the reach of controversy or of doubt. The
persons whom it is the fashion to accuse of lavishing all their charity on the circulation of Bibles, and the diffusion of the Gospel in remote countries, are the very persons by whom the destitute sick, and old men, and indigent widows, and orphan children, are principally supported, and relieved, and educated, in our own country. We do not say this in the way of boasting of their good deeds; but we adduce it to repel a sophistical argument, and an injurious accu
sation, which have been employed to discredit their conduct and their cause; and we adduce it as an undeniable fact. They may be exceeded occasionally by men of the world, whose constitutional sympathies are conjoined with the wealth which enables them to be liberal. They may come short, when the alms which are required are necessary as the test and the expression of a political creed, or of a party attachment. They may not abide comparison, when the strife is about who shall sacrifice most at the shrine of ostentation and of fame. They may be equalled, when there is an institution to be looked after whose management brings along with it the sweets of patronage and influence, or which holds a conspicuous place in the eye and estimation of the world. There may be no perceptible difference between the two classes, when there is such an appeal made to their humanity, by the calamities of the poor, as would require a heart of stone to resist it. But it is indelibly recorded in the history of all our charitable enterprises and associations, whether of a sacred or of a secular description, that those who must be branded, forsooth, as enthusiasts, because they feel for the souls of their brethren in every clime, and would send the doctrine of grace wherever there is a human heart to feel it, or a human habitation to be cheered by it—that they are the people who give as “ God has prospered them,” for the relief of human wretchedness, in its ten thousand forms—that they are the people who penetrate the recesses of our crowded populations, and visit the abodes of poverty and disease, and inquire into the circumstances of their miserable inhabitants, and